Liberty & National Security: An Election Agenda for Candidates, Activists, and Legislators

April 23, 2018

How can we fix American government? How can we make sure it works for all? In the wake of the convulsive 2016 election, there may be no more pressing question. This volume sets out proposals to protect constitutional freedoms, vulnerable communities, and the integrity of our democracy amid new threats. 

Download the Report

Read the Foreword 

Read the Executive Summary


Foreword by Brennan Center President Michael Waldman

How can we fix American government? How can we make sure it works for all?
 
In the wake of the convulsive 2016 election, there may be no more pressing question.
 
Nor will 2016 likely be the last such eruption. American politics has stagnated for years, locked in arid debate on old ideas. Political parties have become increasingly tribal. Elections are drenched in money and marked by intense polarization. Government dysfunction has created an opening for racially divisive backlash politics, while ignoring long-range economic, social, and environmental challenges.
 
Until we reckon with that public discontent, we’ll continue to be entangled in the same battles we’ve been fighting for decades.
 
It is time for fresh thinking, which is why the Brennan Center for Justice is producing Solutions 2018, a series of three reports setting out democracy and justice reforms that are intended to help break the grip of destructive polarization.
 
This volume sets out proposals to protect constitutional freedoms, vulnerable communities, and the integrity of our democracy amid new threats. Others will show how we can ensure free and fair elections, curb the role of big money in American politics, and end mass incarceration.
 
We hope these proposals are useful to candidates, officeholders, activists, and citizens. The 2018 election should be more than a chance to send a message. It should be an opportunity to demand a focus on real change.
 
What counts is not what we are against, but what we are for. 
 
 
Executive Summary
 

Americans need not choose between security and freedom. But the politics of fear and racial bias have too often supplanted sound policies. Instead of narrowly targeting actual threats to our safety and security, some law enforcement and intelligence policies broadly target entire communities, compromising the rights of law-abiding citizens and immigrants.

Practices such as racial profiling, warrantless spying, and callous immigration enforcement are key examples. They do nothing to keep us safe. Yet they erode the nation’s values and sow division. National security is used as a flimsy pretext to keep important details about such policies secret. In the meantime, efforts to thwart real threats to our security — such as Russia’s interference in our democratic process — are falling victim to politics.

As Americans, we can, and must, do better. This report offers five solutions to reform corrosive national security and law enforcement practices that fail to address actual threats to public safety. These proposals will rebuild public trust to enhance security, a goal that all lawmakers should support. A commonsense framework for national security for the 21st century would consist of the following actions:

  • End targeting of minority communities. Congress should pass the End Racial Profiling Act which would prohibit profiling based on race, religion, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

  • Stop funding the “Muslim ban” and “extreme vetting.” Congress should cut all funding associated with President’s Trump’s “Muslim ban” and “extreme vetting” policies, including the National Vetting Center.

  • End warrantless spying on Americans. Congress should refresh privacy rules enacted before the World Wide Web to ensure Americans’ most private communications are protected. It should also enact reforms to ensure that warrantless surveillance ostensibly directed at foreigners isn’t used to spy on Americans.

  • Protect whistleblowers and the press. Robust legal protection is especially important in an era when the president has dubbed broadcast networks “the enemy of the American people.” Congress should pass a “reporter shield law” to protect journalists, along with meaningful safeguards for national security whistleblowers.

  • Protect investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Congress should pass legislation to ensure that special counsel Robert Mueller cannot be red without cause and judicial review. Lawmakers should also conduct robust fact-finding inquires to adequately address the threat of foreign interference in U.S. elections.

 

Liberty & National Security: An Election Agenda for Candidates, Activists, and Legislators by The Brennan Center for Justice on Scribd